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Uphaar tragedy: Gopal Ansal to serve one-year jail, relief for elder brother

The Supreme Court on Thursday directed real estate baron Gopal Ansal to serve a year's jail term while his elder brother Sushil Ansal got relief from incarceration with prison term already undergone by him in the nearly two-decade-old case of Uphaar fire tragedy in which 59 people had died.

The apex court, in a majority 2:1 verdict, asked 67-year- old Gopal Ansal to surrender within four weeks to serve the remaining jail term of one year punishment. He was in jail earlier for around four-and-a-half months.

The majority verdict pronounced by Justices Ranjan Gogoi and Kurian Joseph gave the relief to 76-year-old Sushil Ansal considering his "advanced age-related complications" by giving him prison term already undergone by him, including remission, in the case. He was earlier in jail for around five months.

"In the case of Sushil Ansal, having regard to the advanced age-related complications, as appreciated by the three-judge bench in the order dated September 22, 2015, and having regard to the fact that, of the one year period imposed by the high court, he has already undergone around nine months including remission, his sentence of imprisonment is reduced to the period undergone," the majority judgement said.

"However, he is also sentenced to a fine of Rs 30 crore.

Thus, in the peculiar facts of the case, as appreciated by Gyan Sudha Misra, J. (since retired) and the three-judge bench, we decline the prayer for review of sentence on Sushil Ansal," it said.

Regarding Gopal Ansal, the majority verdict "maintained" the one-year imprisonment given by the Delhi High Court and which was upheld by the two-judge bench of the apex court.

The apex court also upheld the fine of Rs 30 crore each imposed on both the convicts earlier and said it should be utilised for setting up a trauma centre.

The majority verdict was passed by Justices Gogoi and Joseph while Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel gave the minority view. Writing the minority verdict dismissing the review pleas filed by CBI and the victims' body, Justice Goel said, "It is also necessary to mention that higher fine cannot be read as extra benefit to a rich person but has been imposed on account of capacity to pay. There is neither any illegality nor any impropriety warranting review of said order passed by this court."

The apex court said that it has "partially reviewed" the verdict, delivered by it on August 19, 2015, sentencing the Ansal brothers to two years rigorous jail term if they fail to pay Rs 30 crore each within three months. The convicts have already paid the fine.
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